‘VITAL program’ making it easier for student veterans to get help they need

Education 21st Century

TOPEKA (KSNT) – A new partnership between the Topeka VA and Washburn University is making it easier for student veterans to get access to the help they need.

Right now, Washburn University has about 300 student veterans, but the transition to campus life can be another battle to overcome.

“Some of them have been in the Middle East and they have not been in an academic environment prior to coming here,” Military Transitions & Advocate Chris Bowers said. “Writing skills and math skills, sometimes they struggle.”

The university and VA are teaming up to bring the VITAL Program to campus this fall.

It stands for Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership and will provide access to a number of different services for student veterans; some they may not even know is an option.

“Evidence-based treatment, clinical services for mental health, access to care, as well as helping them to figure out how that integrates with their education plan,” Transition and Care Management Supervisor for the VA, Jennifer Molleker said.

Chris Bowers said many of these students have families and jobs outside of their education.

“Not only do they have school work, but they have outside influences taking up their time,” Bowers said.

And having the vital program on campus will make it more likely for them to utilize the services available.

“Reduces the difficulty in accessing care and it also increases the likelihood that they’ll be here with us throughout that day and be able to access all of the other things that we want them to have access to as our students,” Director of Counseling Services for Washburn Crystal Leming said.

Program leaders hope the presence of VITAL on campus will work to destigmatize getting help, especially mental health services for veterans.

“It’s critical to meet anyone where they’re at. I think it’s important for them to be comfortable in their own setting,” Molleker said. “Allowing them to access care without the intimidation of maybe possibly entering a hospital setting.”

Clinicians from the Topeka VA will be on campus permanently every week once the program is available this fall.

Services are available right now though. You can learn about those here, or by calling (785) 670-3100.

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